“I can’t believe this is happening to me!” Is this what you were thinking the day you had your stillborn baby? Were you confused about why, and more importantly why you?Or maybe you were feeling anger or jealousy, thinking something like, “Why can’t I have a normal baby, a living baby, like everyone else in this hospital?” “Why do they get to have the joy of taking their newborn home, and instead I’m holding a dead baby?” Why? Why? Please, someone just tell me………why?
Even as a daddy, I struggled with the above questions. Although I’m sure I don’t struggle nearly as much, or as bad as you mommies do. But some questions never get answered for any of us, at least on this side of heaven. Just thinking about that day can bring back a teeter-totter of intense emotions. Your stress levels can spring back to unprecedented levels, can’t they? Your brain relives that time so vividly. Your mind can soar to the utmost heights of joy, and 5 minutes later sink to lowest depth of pain and sorrow. There were moments of despair and sheer terror when you were in the delivery room. But those same moments were also mixed with love, wonder, and hope. How can anyone even explain this? I lived through it and still can’t explain it. And no one, except for parents who have been through it, can even relate to what I am talking about. The whole experience is still shrouded in mystery.
Are you ever afraid you’re going to forget those precious moments you had with your lifeless baby? You know, those moments in the delivery room when he or she finally arrived? Are you ever afraid your memory will lapse on how it felt to be cradling your little one? Do you ever think you’ll forget that little boy or girl? The way they felt? The color of their eyes? The exact appearance of their face? What about the words you spoke to them as they lie motionless in your arms? Are things starting to become a blur over time? Are you scared of the moment slipping away from you?
Yes, we all have these fears when it comes to our stillborn babies. We’re afraid we will forget some of the most memorable few hours of our lives. Granted, this could happen. At least to certain degrees in most of us. We live in a fallen world, with minds that are also fallen. The sad fact is that, as some of us get older, we will forget some of the moments we had with our babies. This could be due to Alzheimer’s, senility, or simply old age. Nothing, not even our good memories of delivery day, will be perfect on a fallen earth.
But why do we have these intense fears regarding memories of our stillborn? Very simple. You fear losing those things you most treasure. You become almost obsessed with not losing them. Memories of our babies are precious. Especially since, for parents of stillborns, memories are all we have. And we may forget little tiny moments of that day, but certainly not the whole experience. Not even close.
By the grace of God, here are 5 gut-wrenching, tear-filled, but at the same time precious moments you will likely not forget about your sweet stillborn. As a daddy, my experience was much different than you as a mommy, of course. And although this one is written for both parents, I suspect mommies will relate to it more. Either way, I hope it blesses you. So let’s get to it, mommies and daddies. While there are many more things that could be added to this list, I hope you will never forget………….
1) The exact way it felt to hold your little baby in your arms for the first time.
Remember how you carefully made sure that their fragile, wobbly body was well protected, with their head placed sturdily underneath your arm? Remember trying not to injure them, and being ever so delicate with them? Trust me, whether or not you say you believe in God, you knew that your baby was created in His image. You cannot deny that. It shows in the way you treated your little one. The way you took extra care to make sure you held them like a baby should be held. The way you reacted when the nurses wanted to bathe and clothe your baby in a cute little outfit. You wanted to be a mommy and daddy just like every other parent. Stillborn babies are body and soul just like every other human being, created to bring glory to God and live forever. You must accept, and hold onto this truth, because you proved it in the delivery room. You loved and cradled your baby like the precious human being they truly are. And it felt amazing, didn’t it?!
2) The way you pretended you were going to take your baby home.
Remember the tears and overwhelming emotions when your baby was born? Was it joy or was it sadness? Was it both? I suspect it was both……..in some crazy, but unexplainable way. Delivery day!! YAY!! No wait……..“I can’t be happy! Can I??” At some point, you stopped worrying about what everyone else thought. You stepped full force into the messy and scary reality of what you were going through. You talked to your baby like you were giving them instructions, didn’t you? You told them how much you loved them, right? Even though you knew they couldn’t hear you, you still told them. You wanted to make that day as beautiful as it could possibly be. And that is the way it should be. That is our God given way of dealing with grief. No one was going to take your moment of joy away from you, even if they tried.
And you needed to pretend a little, didn’t you? You felt like you were going to take them home with you. You convinced yourself of this. Just for that short period of time, you pretended like you were like every other mommy and daddy in a delivery room. “Why should I be any different than them?” is what you were thinking. And you know what, it was ok to pretend. It was ok to pretend that you were taking your baby home. We allow little kids to have that kind of mind sometimes, right? We wouldn’t dare condemn every kind of “pretend” game. How else could you have enjoyed those few moments you had with your baby? The mind is an amazing thing! It gives us the ability to enjoy precious moments, even in the midst of awfully intense sorrow. Both at the same time. It allows us to momentarily shut things out a little bit, doing away with emotions that will only complicate things. That’s what I did with Ariana. I held her like she was coming home. I spoke to her like she was coming home. It made the time go much better. Was it like that for you?
3) That moment when your precious little first came out of your body……..silently.
It was a deafening sound of silence. I know that is an oxymoron, but it wasn’t like any other silence. It was a silence you could only feel. A silence you can still vividly imagine when your mind travels back to that day. Remember how you were hoping and praying, and wishing real hard, that your baby would just start crying, despite all the medical evidence that said he or she was already dead. I knew Ariana was gone before we went to the delivery room that day. The ultrasound proved as much the day before her birth. But I still kept holding onto hope. Maybe I had seen seen too many movies. I don’t know.
But I believed miracles happen. I wasn’t a Christian at the time. But I still believed that God existed, and that He performed miracles. I still thought I would get my prayers answered. Yes, I really thought we were going to get a miracle on February 20th, 2002. Looking back, I imagine Ariana coming out of the womb crying like other babies, looking at me as if to say, “Daddy, why do you look so frightened? Have faith! I am alive! I am a living miracle! Come over here and give me a hug!” But it wasn’t meant to be. You know how people say “crickets” all the time now when speaking about silence. That was the answer God gave me. “Crickets” was all I heard from my little girl. Mommy was moaning in pain. The nurses were speaking encouraging words. I was silent. Silent and crying. And my baby was silent. I know yours was too.
4) The thoughts you had when you had to give your baby back.
How cruel it felt to give your baby back to the people at the hospital, knowing that the next time you see your little……..he or she will be in a casket. Knowing that your hope has now been disintegrated, you feel like there is no reason to have joy ever again in your life. Now, all you can think about is how you have to lie in that bed and listen to all the other babies screaming and crying in the other rooms. You have to somehow hold up under the weight of what feels to be an unbearable load. You have to drive home with that empty car seat in the back.
It has been said that picking out a casket for a baby is one of the most dreadful experiences one could ever go through. The person who said this may be right, but they are missing the whole picture. Here’s the thing. You also had to see that casket being lowered into the ground. Did you think about seeing your little being lowered into the ground when you gave them back at the hospital? Maybe you suppressed that truth in the moment. But not long after, you knew it was coming.
Don’t forget that moment at the cemetery. I know it’s painful, but do not forget this moment. Why? Because it is a part of your story. It is a part of you that no one should ever forget about. It is a reminder that this world is not as it should be. You had to give your baby back. And that is not the way it should have gone down. Mommies and daddies should not be handing back their babies at hospitals. But there is hope!
5) The moment when you first thought about where your baby really is.
You know what? The casket is not your baby’s home. Neither is the grave. Read those last two sentences again. You know what else? The day you delivered your stillborn wasn’t all about pretending was it? Maybe the part about taking them home was, but there is a greater truth that should’ve kept us going. And if this truth didn’t keep you going in the delivery room then, please make sure it keeps you going now. Your stillborn baby is now, and forever, in a place of infinite joy and pleasure. I keep thinking about where my little girl was in spirit, even though she was lifeless in my arms. You can do the same. Even better, you can think about where your baby is now. They’ll be dancing on streets of gold one day, when they have their glorified bodies. And that is not pretend. That is for real.
Your baby’s spirit is now with Jesus. So even if you do end up with a tragic disease of the mind and forget about your baby, HE never will! And if you are in Christ, you will see your baby again. And no one, and I mean no one, can ever take that truth away.
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